There have been many comments talking about progressive presses and other ways of accelerating the reloading process.

Before you can decide which path you are going to take, you need to consider exactly what your needs are.

When I was commuting to one of my clients once a week, I would go to the range every week. At the range, I would run 100 to 200 rounds through my pistol.

That’s 400 to 800 rounds per month.

At the low end, that is 4800 rounds per year. At the high end, that’s 9600 rounds per year. The reality was closer to 6000 per year, not counting range days when I took other toys out shooting.

This put me in need of reloading large numbers of rounds per month. I did it all with an auto-advance turret press. Sometimes configured for manual advance.

Once you have become comfortable reloading with a single stage press, it is time to add some extra tools.

The slowest single step of the entire process is throwing charges. This is what you are likely going to want to speed up first.

Get a good powder charger. That’s the simplest answer. Once you find a powder that throws consistently, you can reduce the time it takes to throw a charge to just a few seconds.

When I was doing bulk reloading, I had a through die expander. When the case went up, the mouth was flared slightly, I could then throw a charge, and it would be “close enough”. When you are reloading with a “forgiving” powder, and you are not at the extremes, this is fairly safe.

Using the powder charger, I would weigh one in 20 to see where it fell. If it was off, I would make adjustments, make sure it was stabilized and go on.

At one point, I even tried a version that would throw a charge automatically when a case was inserted into the die.

Using reloading trays, you can use an off the press powder charger and charge 50 cases in less than 5 minutes. It is only a few more minutes to actually seat all the bullets in those cases.

When next I reload pistol rounds, this is how I will do it. I will have my powder charger setup to throw a charge into a pan, then I’ll transfer that to the press. This gives me good visual confirmation that enough powder was actually dispensed.

If I’m interested in more precise, I’ll use my automatic trickler to throw a charge into the pan before transferring that to the press.

The short of it, is that for me, there is no need for anything more than a turret press. Do I want a bigger, better turret press? Yes. It will be a manual advance.

For rifle rounds, I’ll use my automatic trickler and do things that way.

For rifle rounds, the major time sync is the case preparation. It just takes time. I’m in the process of building a case preparation machine. It will consist of a case trimmer station, an outside chamfer, inside chamfer, reamer, and normalizer.

After sizing a case, I’ll be able to put it into a case holder, then move it through all five stations and be done with it.

Which takes us to case prep. I think the Lee quick trim system might work well. I don’t own it, I do not know. The cool thing for me is that I should be able to make those trim dies myself, saving myself 30 per trim die.

On the other hand, the easy trim by Lyman works wonderfully for me.

Which takes us to the magic of a progressive press.

The top of the line progressive presses are astonishing machines. One of the advantages they have over turret presses is that the stuff attached to your die plate doesn’t move. The shell holders move. On a turret press, every time you move to the next station, everything attached to the turret plate gets moved around. Like your powder charger.

Once everything is set up, the process of reloading starts by filling all your supply tubes.

There is a machine that will take 100 primers, orient them correctly, drop them down a tube, ready to use. The press can have a magazine of primer tubes, when one primer tube is empty, you remove it and let the primer filler reload it with primers.

You fill your powder charger with the right powder. Easy. Depending on the press, that can be more than a pound of powder.

You pour your bullets into the supply bin. When the bullet feed tube is low, the motor for the bin turns on. Bullets are oriented so they fall base first into the tube. When the tube is full, the motor turns off.

There are even feeders for the cases.

What this means, is that your task has been reduced to monitoring and supplying the power to operate the system. It is your job to work the lever. Each full stroke of the lever and a cartridge drops out and into the collection bin.

One reloader I followed, would do 10,000 rounds in a setting. He would check the powder throws every 100 charges, apart from that, his task was to work that lever.

The other side of this is precision. Precision comes from consistency.

The rifle dies I use have a “generic” neck diameter. That shouldn’t make a difference, but it does.

At issue is the thickness of the case walls.

The specifications for a 5.56×45 state that the OD of the neck is 0.253 and the ID is 0.224. This means that the case walls should be 0.0145.

What if the case thickness isn’t 0.0145? What if it is 0.0170, that’s just 2.5 thousandths larger. But that means that there are 5 thousandths off the ID total. That increases the grip of the case on the bullet when the bullet is seated and crimped.

The reality is that everything is designed to have a bit of slop. The only place that extra thickness would be detectable would be when the round is chambered.

But for accuracy, we don’t want differences. So those reloaders carefully turn the thickness of the neck walls to be “correct”.

We use a 0.010 tolerance on case length. These case might only accept 0.001 tolerance. All to make sure that the bullet is in exactly the right place in the throat of the chamber every time.

We use scales accurate to 0.1 grains. That is 6.48 mg. These pedantic reloader use scales that are accurate to 0.01 grains, or 0.648 mg. That’s pretty astonishing.

They weigh each of the bullets, they reject any that are outside of tolerance.

Every step of the process is done to maintain consistency.

They use a resizing die that allows them to select the size of the neck they want. All for that holy grail of accuracy.

These are the reloaders that spend as much on a single stage press as the rest of us do on our progressive setups.

How do you make sure you don’t get stuck in one path or another at the early stages?

You buy good dies.

Lee Precision makes good, low-cost dies. They make some in carbide as well.
Lyman, RCBS, and Hornady more expensive dies. Are they better than Lee? Likely?
Redding makes still more expensive dies. I consider them to be better than the four above.
Forster makes even more expensive dies. I am told they are better still.
And then you can find places that will custom-make your dies.

When you start out, Lee is just fine. If you are going to do better, buy better. Currently, I buy Redding, and I am looking for a reason to buy a set of Forster dies.

Go have some fun.

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By awa

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